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Kashkashian’s Music For Social Justice


Silvia Lelli photo

Kim Kashkashian’s mission to engage musicians in social action continues with a concert at NEC’s Brown Hall on October 17th.

You might think that being a world-class viola player with a multifaceted career as a soloist, chamber music player, and teacher would leave one little time to adopt another energy-consuming endeavor. Well, yes, unless the violist is the indefatigable Kim Kashkashian. While other great chamber musicians have opened their own festivals, Ms. Kashkashian, a long-time veteran of the Marlboro Music Festival and international soloist with an extensive discography, decided that there was a serious hunger problem in the Boston area, and she was going to do something about it—with music.

What she came up with, Music for Food, was hardly just another concert series.  It was actually started in 2009 in Rochester, NY by Carol Rodland, a former student and now a colleague of Ms. Kashkashian. That first series raised money for the local food bank. Ms. Kashkashian took the idea to Boston last year, putting on six successful chamber music concerts in Emmanuel Church. All (voluntary) proceeds—money and non-perishable goods—went to The Greater Boston Food Bank.

This year’s four concerts will be held on Monday nights in NEC’s Brown Hall. The first concert, on Monday, October 17th at 8 pm, features Mozart’s Duo for Violin and Viola in G Major, Bartok’s Duos, and Brahms’s Sextet in G Major. The players will include Kim Kashkashian, whose longtime piano partner is BMInt’s editor Robert Levin, and an impressive list of string-playing luminaries including many members of the NEC faculty.

In an interview in her home, Ms. Kashkashian explained how the idea of professionals giving concerts to raise money for the Food Bank was but one part of a project, all of whose elements work together:

…to make people aware on a daily basis that one person in nine has food insecurity. I would like every middle and high school student to be aware of this. With this project, we—younger and older musicians—are able to raise awareness of this problem, which has only worsened. Last year it was one in ten who had ‘food insecurity.’ Now it is one in nine. We can use our gifts to make a powerful statement and, hopefully, cause the audience to DO something.”

My starting point is that most musicians, with their hours of practicing, live in a cocooned world, a life that is isolated. Those of us who teach are confronted with our young adult students, most of whom have big hearts and a desire to be of service. We as musicians should be aware while we play that the power of the music can be the catalyst for social justice and action. The direct and intense response to music making will, I hope, make people want to give. It’s about music as a tool for social justice.”

One of Music for Food’s ideas is to issue “reverse tickets, little pieces of paper handed to audience members as they walk into the hall. Instead of paying to get in, if you so desire, there will be a collection point (on the way out) where you can leave money or non-perishable food. ”

Ms. Kashkashian hopes that the idea of Music for Food will spread grassroots into other communities and will come to include music students of all ages. Music for Food encourages musicians in other cities to take up this project, insisting it should remain a voluntary organization, presenting in an intimate settings where “the audience is your partner.”

Susan Miron is a book critic, essayist, and harpist. Her last two CDs featured her transcriptions of keyboard music of Domenico Scarlatti.

1 Comment »

1 Comment [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. b”h
    What a wonderful idea! Thank you to Kim Kashkashian for doing this! 

    Comment by Lewis Brinin — February 13, 2012 at 4:18 pm

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